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Waterloo tops CBRE list of North American emerging tech talent markets

A new CBRE report lists Waterloo as North America's top 'opportunity market' - a tech market with the talent and cost advantages to drive rapid growth.

A new report from CBRE identifies Waterloo as North America’s fastest-growing “opportunity market.” The report, 2020 Scoring Tech Talent, says that Waterloo has witnessed an incredible 51 percent growth in tech jobs over the past five years, which puts the total tech workforce at 22,400 people.

Opportunity markets – also known as emerging markets – offer tech companies a unique chance to tap into new talent pools, expand geographical reach, uncover new opportunities and increase cost efficiency. These qualities are a major reason why Canada’s three fastest growing tech companies are in Waterloo – including new unicorn ApplyBoard – and Google Canada revealed plans for a major expansion of its Waterloo-based engineering headquarters.

Top five “opportunity markets” in North America:

CBRE's Top Five "Opportunity Markets" in North America

Waterloo’s total numbers are becoming comparable to a number of much larger communities with strong tech talent markets, including Richmond (VA) and Madison (WI). However, our concentration of tech talent (8.6%) is still much higher than any of the so-called “Small Tech Talent Markets” – which includes Columbus and Pittsburgh – and higher than all but a few of the “Large Tech Talent Markets.” This makes our community truly unique among tech hubs in North America.

The new report includes a couple of additional insights into tech talent in North America:

Toronto continues its furious talent market growth

The new report also highlights Toronto’s continuing strength in the “Large Tech Talent Markets” class. This year, Canada’s largest city is ranked #4 overall but comes in second for talent market growth, trailing Silicon Valley. Just 105km/65mi from Waterloo, our communities form the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, which is a global-scale tech cluster.

Significant brain drain in America’s mid-sized cities

For the second straight year Silicon Valley (+51,958) and Toronto (+42,817) top the list for “brain gain” which measures tech talent growth above or below the number of graduates produced in that community. The much more surprising finding was that noted tech hubs like Pittsburgh (-15,443), Detroit (-17,100), New York (-18,796) and Austin (-1,275) have had a significant “brain drain,” highlighting an inability to retain graduates. CBRE does not include “opportunity markets” like Waterloo in this part of the report.

Canada is a cure to over-heated tech talent competition

CBRE notes that talent availability – and the resulting competition for top talent in some markets – provides a drag on tech company growth. In the report’s index of labour market competitiveness, the usual suspects – Silicon Valley, Seattle, Austin – occupy the “very competitive” end of the spectrum, which means talent availability is not meeting talent needs. Canadian cities are almost entirely found in the “balanced” section of the index, indicating a good match between talent availability and talent needs. If you’re looking for talent to meet your needs, coming to Canada is a good start. We also have exceptional business-friendly immigration programs that can help US-based companies protect their H-1B talent.

Download the CBRE Scoring Tech Talent Report here.

Get more information about the top emerging tech talent market in North America

Waterloo EDC can provide data, help with developing an expansion plan and more.